Subchronic glucocorticoids, glutathione depletion and a postpartum model elevate monoamine oxidase a activity in the prefrontal cortex of rats

Brain Res. 2017 Jul 1:1666:1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2017.03.032. Epub 2017 Apr 20.


Recent human brain imaging studies implicate dysregulation of monoamine oxidase-A (MAO-A), in particular in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), in the development of major depressive disorder (MDD). This study investigates the influence of four alterations underlying important pathologies of MDD, namely, chronic elevation of glucocorticoid levels, glutathione depletion, changes in female gonadal sex hormones and serotonin concentration fluctuation, on MAO-A and MAO-B activities in rats. Young adult rats exposed chronically to the synthetic glucocorticoid dexamethasone at 0, 0.05, 0.5, and 2.0mg/kg/day (osmotic minipumps) for eight days showed significant dose-dependent increases in activities of MAO-A in PFC (+17%, p<0.001) and ACC (+9%, p<0.01) and MAO-B in PFC (+14%, p<0.001) and increased serotonin turnover in the PFC (+31%, p<0.01), not accounted for by dexamethasone-induced changes in serotonin levels, since neither serotonin depletion nor supplementation affected MAO-A activity. Sub-acute depletion of the major antioxidant glutathione by diethyl maleate (5mmol/kg, i.p.) for three days, which resulted in a 36% loss of glutathione in PFC (p=0.0005), modestly, but significantly, elevated activities of MAO-A in PFC and MAO-B in PFC, ACC and hippocampus (+6-9%, p<0.05). Changes in estrogen and progesterone representing pseudopregnancy were associated with significantly elevated MAO-A activity in the ACC day 4-7 postpartum (10-18%, p<0.05 to p<0.0001) but not the PFC or hippocampus. Hence, our study provides data in support of strategies targeting glucocorticoid and glutathione systems, as well as changes in female sex hormones for normalization of MAO-A activities and thus treatment of mood disorders.

Keywords: Dexamethasone; Glutathione depletion; Major depressive disorder; Monoamine oxidase; Postpartum model; Rat prefrontal cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Glucocorticoids / deficiency*
  • Glutathione / deficiency*
  • Male
  • Monoamine Oxidase / metabolism*
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Postpartum Period / metabolism*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism*
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors
  • Monoamine Oxidase
  • Glutathione

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